10 new albums that stand up for the downtrodden

February 27, 2024
Protest albums from February 2024

Do you think there's no good protest music these days? So did I, until I started looking for it. The truth is, it’s always been out there, but it's sometimes just a bit difficult to find. Every month, I search it out, listen to it all, then round up the best of it that relates to that month’s political news. Here’s the round-up for February 2024.


Police tried to rip a gas mask off Australian climate activist Violet CoCo while spraying her in the face with pepper spray at a pro-Palestine protest on February 21. A fortnight earlier, her fellow climate activist Brad Homewood told journalist Paul Gregoire of Sydney Criminal Lawyers: "It’s important to always remember and maintain that the police are not our friends. Some police officers will come across friendly. It is important to remember that they’re trained in the skill of collecting data, and that is very much part of their strategy, to befriend you and to get you to drop your guard." On February 16, Against Me! punk singer Laura Jane Grace released her catchy and accessible new solo album, which contains the song "I'm Not A Cop". "Now that you're gone, I know what I'm not," she hollers. "I'm not a fucking cop, cop, cop, cop, cop! Are you a fucking cop? Don't be a fucking cop!" LISTEN>>> 

2. MODERN ENGLISH - 1 2 3 4

Also despairing at the state of the environment are pioneering post-punks Modern English on their first album in eight years, which was released on February 23. On "Plastic", they sing: "The world is full of plastic, and our hearts are full of plastic, and the sea is full of plastic, so the fish are full of plastic... Your eyes are full of plastic, and they're screaming in the light. The trees are full of plastic, and we call this civilised." Two days before the album's release, Greenpeace activists who had staged an anti-oil protest at British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's mansion were charged with criminal damage. On the album's lead single, "Not My Leader", the band sneer, resignedly: "You're not my leader, it's like you live on Mars, stealing all our hearts. Invade a mind today, yes, just takeaway. It's like you've never tried, just to stop the lies. You're just wasting all our time..." LISTEN>>>   


If you'd prefer something a little more hopeful, try the delicately-produced new album by self-described optimist Maddie Morris, released the same day. On its song about US gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen Marsha P Johnson, the queer English folk musician sings: "Maybe everyone will cast their votes and get someone like us behind a screen. Maybe this time propaganda will subside, and we can remember what democracy means. And maybe our rainbow might mean liberation again, not just more random stuff they can sell." But she also notes the pessimistic challenges long-time activists face. On album closer "Political T-shirt", she rues: "They told me I would grow out of my anger, as I got older my ideology would change. Now I'm sat in my flat making placards and banners for another damn protest on another damn day." LISTEN>>>


Addressing the transphobic toxicity that can infect even supposedly progressive people, English punks Lambrini Girls lash out at trans-exclusionary radical feminists on their latest EP. Over catchy, heavy riffs, they scream on the song "Terf Wars": "Harbouring resentment with your warped tunnel vision, gaslight, girlboss, gatekeep, the whole excisions. It's not your space. This space belongs to all women. You're not a feminist, you're a stain on this earth. Shut your fucking mouth, you stupid fucking Terf." In a February 5 interview, they said: "We literally just played a show with visualisers in the back, just saying ‘Trans Lives Matter’, and that shouldn’t be controversial at all. But we woke up the next day, while we were still at the festival, to all these Terfs going mental on Twitter. Ultimately, I think it’s very important to keep bringing these conversations into the mainstream." LISTEN>>>


Also bringing uncomfortable conversations into the mainstream is Taiwanese-Australian singer, producer and songwriter Jaguar Jonze, on her new EP, Victim Impact Statement. Discussing the sexual assault addressed on the EP, released on February 23, she said: "I became an artist to tell stories...  However, in 2019, I became the story when my body was taken without my consent. When I made the choice to go public with the incident, it came at an insurmountable cost... Through the advocacy and justice system, I learned that sacrificing my body, my life alone, was never going to take down the structural violence so prevalent in our society." The intimate EP came just a week after data from Destroy the Joint activists showed nine women in Australia had lost their lives as a result of gender-based violence in 2024. That figure increased to 10 with the death of Min Cho in Gadigal / Sydney on February 21. LISTEN>>>   


That gender-based violence is, of course, not restricted to Australia - it infects the entire world. African feminists Les Amazones D'Afrique resist their continent's war on women with their musically stunning new album, released on February 16. On the album's title track "Musow Danse" (Women's Dance), they sing: "We’re calling on women from around the world. Womanhood cannot be dismissed just like that. We’re calling on women from Africa. Womanhood cannot be dismissed just like that. Are we talking about women who care for children? Women who respect their husbands? Women who are in a marriage? The ones who respect their wedding vows? Iye iye, rise up, iye iye iye, African woman." But on "Queen Kuruma" they offer some hope. "Let’s celebrate, because life today has totally changed," they sing. "The mothers are standing for their little daughters' rights. Yes, we are not slaves any more." LISTEN>>> 


Another strong African woman taking a stand released her defiant new album on February 23. Aziza Brahim, who grew up in refugee camps in Algeria after her family was forced into exile from Western Sahara, said the new record builds on her 2019 album Sahari, which offered a portrait of her displaced Sahrawi people. After Sahari was released, “I had a bad anxiety crisis”, she said. “Just as I was recovering, Covid and lockdown happened, and we had to stop the tour we had planned. That made my condition worse. I had to fight to keep my equilibrium. Then, as I began to recover, in November 2020, my country, Western Sahara, was back at war against Morocco. It still is.” The album came as a boat carrying asylum seekers was intercepted as it tried to reach Australia. The incident sparked the usual vote-grabbing refugee-bashing from manipulative Australian politicians of all stripes. LISTEN>>> 


Hitting out at that refugee-bashing is the broad-ranging and meticulously-produced new album from Naarm / Melbourne punks Sordid Ordeal. Billed as "the first of a two-part coming-of-age story, based semi-autobiographically on frontman Laurence Hewson’s move from the country to the city", the genre-bending thrash metal-cum-classical folk record lashes the legacy of former prime minister John Howard on the song "Citizen". "Never mind the refugees in John Howard’s administration," sings the poetic Hewson, who originally hails from the Riverina town of Wagga Wagga. "Livin’ in a bedrock nation state of burning beds and racist sexist redneck arsehole population. Suicide in old sheep stations. Women with black eyes in waiting. Counter-action education. Fireballs at Frankston Station. One Nation capitulation. Lead us not in to temptation. Late night paddy wagon transportation." LISTEN>>>


Resisting such Australian racism in stunning style is the new album from multi-talented Aboriginal artist Fred Leone, released on the same day, February 16. The charismatic musician's people hail from the Queensland coastline that includes Fraser Island, which recently reverted to its traditional name of K'Gari, sparking uproar from the Murdoch media. He is one of just three Butchulla songmen, and sings in their endangered language throughout the record, backed by groundbreaking, experimental music from soundtrack artist Samuel Pankhurst. A more unlikely artist standing up for Indigenous rights is Canadian country musician Corb Lund. Discussing his new album, released on February 23, he hit out at the coal mines threatening to destroy the Rocky Mountains. "First Nations folks... have been here longer than anyone [and their] communities tell me they don’t want these mines either," he said. LISTEN>>>    


Veteran First Nations activist Robbie Thorpe drew parallels between his people and the oppressed Palestinians as he opened a pro-Palestine rally with an acknowledgement of country in Naarm / Melbourne on February 4. Ten days later, New York record label Toadstool Records marked Valentine's Day by releasing their new album, Valentines For Palestine, with all profits donated to The Freedom Theatre in Palestine. "The Freedom Theatre itself has long endured violence, intimidation and vandalism," they said. "On December 12th 2023 into the early hours of December 13th, their building was ransacked by Israeli forces as part of a widespread military operation in Jenin. Forces shot inside the theatre and destroyed their offices. Artistic director Ahmed Tobasi and producer Mustafa Sheta were arrested in their homes that night... Ahmed was released the next day, while Mustafa’s whereabouts remain unknown." LISTEN>>>

[Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country and makes political music. Mat Ward's latest single is I Wanna Be Like Violet CoCo.]

Want to get this column every month? Just email matwardmusic@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my monthly email that includes a link to this column here at Green LeftYes, I want to read this column every month.

Read about more political albums.

Stream our new “Best protest songs of 2024” playlist on Spotify. This replaces the previous “Political albums” playlist, that was getting too big at more than 700 albums.

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